• France's news in English

Air France strike: Most flights grounded

AFP/The Local · 16 Sep 2014, 11:02

Published: 16 Sep 2014 11:02 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Passengers faced a second day of travel disruption on Tuesday as Air France pilots extended a strike in protest at the airline's plans to expand its low-cost subsidiary.

Air France was forced to scrap 60 percent of its flights as unions estimated three quarters of pilots followed their call to strike.

Unions fear the French airline is seeking to bolster its Transavia France subsidiary, a leisure airline that flies to holiday destinations, because pilots there earn less than Air France pilots.

A pilot for the French flagship carrier earns about €75,000 ($97,000) a year on average while captains of long-haul flights can earn up to €250,000.

In a bid to soothe fears that management is seeking to expand Transavia at the cost of the higher-paid Air France pilots, the company announced the Transavia fleet will be limited to 30 planes instead of the 37 originally planned. This concession, however, will only run until 2019.

The company held talks into the night on Monday with unions that have threatened to strike until September 22 -- which would be the longest industrial action at the company since 1998.

There is "not yet" a breakthrough in the crisis but "we are continuing to negotiate," said Air France boss Frederic Gagey.

"We have made proposals. We have recognised the concerns of pilots who thought Transavia France could replace Air France in France," he added.

The plan "is of course not to replace Air France with Transavia," stressed Gagey.

The company plans to "add to the tools at Air France's disposal to attack a new market -- the leisure market -- by developing Transavia," he explained.

Gagey put the daily losses from the strike at €10 to 15 million.

Traffic 'halted'

Despite the strike, the situation at France's main airports was mainly calm as passengers were warned in advance they would be unable to travel.

Terminal 2E at the main Paris airport, Charles De Gaulle, was deserted, with only a few bewildered and stranded passengers who had not received a message in time.

"I was supposed to leave at 9:35. They finally found me a flight in the afternoon," said Delhi-bound Indian tourist Sakhit Dhamija.

The head of the Air France-KLM group, Alexandre de Juniac, told French radio the situation would "improve slightly" on Wednesday, with more than 40 percent of flights in the air.

But the airline later said that it would have to scrap 60 percent of flights on Wednesday.

At certain hubs in France, however, the situation was dire. In the southern city of Toulouse, for example, only one flight out of 43 was to run as scheduled on Tuesday.

Story continues below…

And unions warned that the situation would deteriorate the longer the strike went on, as pilots that did fly were forced to take their legally stipulated rest period.

"Tuesday will be even more difficult and on Wednesday, Air France traffic could be halted" completely, said Jean-Louis Barber, head of the SNPL pilots' union.

Fresh negotiations between unions and the management will take place later Tuesday afternoon.

Management already rejected a call by unions to put Air France pilots at the controls of any plane with more than 100 seats, regardless of the operating company -- Transavia included.

"The answer is no, because an Air France contract costs more than a Transavia contract," said Gagey.

In neighbouring Germany, a strike planned for Tuesday by flag carrier Lufthansa was narrowly averted after pilot union Cockpit won concessions from management, days after pilots staged an eight-hour walkout over changes to early retirement rules.

AFP/The Local (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Millionaire Riviera hotel boss kidnapped in broad daylight
The city of Nice where the millionaire was bundled into a car infront of shocked onlookers. Photo: AFP

The millionaire head of a luxury hotel in the French Riviera resort of Cannes was kidnapped in front of shocked onlookers in the middle of the day on Monday.

Where exactly in France are Calais migrants being sent?
Photo: AFP

Here's where the 8,000 migrants in Calais are heading.

The annoying questions only a half French, half British person can answer
Photo: Beery/Flickr/AFP

Being half French, half British is means you get asked a lot of questions (and some of them can be a little annoying.)

Migrants bussed out of Calais Jungle to all corners of France
All photos: AFP

Hundreds of migrants are being bussed across France on Monday ahead of the demolition of the Jungle camp.

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
A Prophet. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

Looking for something to watch?

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part Two
Rust and Bone. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

The newest French films you need to see before you die (or alternatively when you get some spare time).

Election Watch
Presidential hopeful reckons a pain au chocolat is 10 cents

So France happily takes the pastry out of him.

French ministry of defence officials die in plane crash
Screengrab: eddydeg/Twitter

The French Ministry of Defence officials were killed on Monday when a light aircraft went down on the island of Malta.

Revealed: The ten most stolen cars in France
A Smart car in Paris. Photo: JR_Paris/Flickr

Thieves in France are getting a taste for luxury cars, it seems.

Analysis - France migrant crisis
Migrant crisis won't end with Calais 'Jungle' closure
All Photos: AFP

The Jungle camp may be being cleared but this won't be the end of the migrant crisis in France.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available